Why Labrador gets more Heat Warnings than the Okanagan

Across Canada there are 17 different ways of calculating heat warnings. In addition, Nunavut and northern Quebec do not have any heat warning criteria.

Regional heat warnings are issued in Canada as described in the following map.

The variations across the country are set up in such a way that the number of heat warnings come out somewhat evenly. Since the southern interior of BC and southern Ontario experience the hottest summers in Canada, they have the highest bar to be reached before a heat warning is issued.

This first graph lists 33 different places across Canada, covering all 18 zones (including Nunavut), listed from hottest to coldest. Hotness was calculated by averaging the number heat warning days across all 17 thresholds.

Penticton averages 7.1 days per year across all zones, making it the 6th hottest on the list. But using the criteria for the southern interior of BC, Penticton only averages 0.50 days per year.

By contrast, the northern BC city of Terrace averages 0.93 days per year using all 17 criterion, but with the Environment Canada designated threshold, it actually meets the heat warning designation 5.1 days per year.

Northwestern BC and the Yukon have the lowest threshold requirements in Canada while Penticton, Kamloops and the rest of the BC southern interior have the hardest thresholds to meet.

This is not universally true, however, because these southern interior hotspots like Penticton and Kamloops have an easier time meeting their own requirements than those of southwestern Ontario (around Windsor). Penticton and Kamloops average 0.50 and 1.33 heat warning days per year, but if these cities were using Windsor’s thresholds they’d only get 0.03 and 0.10 days per year, respectively.

Of the 17 heat warning different thresholds, Windsor is the national leader in 16 of them. Only with the BC southern interior criteria does Windsor lose out to Kamloops.

By contrast, using the hot and humid southern Ontario criterion yields the following result:

BC’s dry interior climate means cooler nights and fewer days with a humidex, so using Windsor’s criteria puts Penticton (0.03 days) well below more humid cities like Winnipeg (0.43) and Abbotsford (0.13).

The next graph shows this same data with coastal BC thresholds. This reflects the fact that the Fraser Valley, inland from Vancouver, reaches much higher temperatures in the summer.

And here is the same graph using the Atlantic province thresholds.

At the easy end of the scale is the Yukon and northwestern BC. Also included in the following graph is the large area covering central and northeastern BC, northern and central Alberta, and the Northwest Territories.

Notice that using the Yukon criteria would give Windsor more than 45 heat warning days per year. And that’s just an average summer. Some years could be almost every day all summer!

I suppose Environment Canada wanted to at least have a threshold low enough for the Yukon to achieve heat warnings once in a while, but clearly this same benchmark would not make sense for southern Ontario since so many heat warnings would cause the population to tune them out.

The Yukon criteria gives Whitehorse 0.17 days per year, and it even gives Baker Lake, Nunavut 0.03 days per year (although it’s hard make out in the graph). Port Hardy is the only city in the graph that never gets any heat warnings in any category.

The same cannot be said for the northern Northwest Territories community of Inuvik which averages 0.57 days using the NWT thresholds and 0.63 days with the Yukon thresholds.

Quebec is an interesting one because it’s the only place in Canada that doesn’t look at the daily lows. This greatly boosts the southern BC numbers because of the cooler nights relative to Ontario and Quebec.

The remaining heat warning categories are in the following chart. Notice that northern Ontario and southern Saskatchewan are similar, while the other two are similar.

Circling back to each city’s own designated threshold, recall that Penticton only has one heat wave day every two years on average. The limiting factor is the cold nighttime temperature since daytime temperatures are frequently well above 35°C/95°F threshold.

Now, because other places have lower thresholds, the follow locations have more heat wave days per year than Penticton:

  • Winnipeg
  • Moncton
  • Charlottetown
  • Thunder Bay
  • Regina
  • Terrace
  • Happy Valley – Goose Bay
  • Calgary
  • Inuvik

Posted in Climate, Weather Warnings | Leave a comment

Did BC Hydro Really Set a New Record?

George Orwell once observed that whenever there’s an item in the news where you have intimate knowledge or expertise, the story is almost always factually wrong. When the news story is about something to which you do not have special knowledge, it is factually accurate. The logical conclusion is that almost all news stories contain errors, but we only notice them in our area of expertise.

It is extremely hard to rid ourselves of errors, even when there is no political bias or agenda involved. When reporting on a subject matter where we have little foreknowledge, it’s surprisingly difficult to accurately relay the information to our audience.

Enter the case of BC’s supposed record energy usage.

If you read this story, you will be left thinking that the province has never used this much electricity, but that would be false because the writer of the above article — like every other report on this topic I have consumed so far — misheard the experts.

I witnessed an example first hand this morning. Listening to CBC Radio from Kelowna, the host was interviewing the representative from FortisBC (the company that supplies power to a large portion of the southern interior), and the interviewer asked if there was record demand for power with Fortis like BC Hydro was reporting.

The Fortis rep said that there was indeed a new summer record for power consumption. The key word here is “summer,” because anyone lucky enough to possess a memory that stretches back more than four years (which isn’t most of us) would know that when BC Hydro hits a new high for electricity demand in the winter, it’s much higher than the “record demand” experienced this week.

As with the other articles written about this “record demand,” this interviewer was playing the game of telephone with the FortisBC representative; she was present when the utterance of the word “summer” came forth, but it did not register with her brain since she was more focused on the word “record.” As a result, she left the impression with listeners that the province hit a new all time record this week for electricity demand in the same fashion that the province achieved a new all time high temperature extreme.

I was also present when the adjective summer was spoken, and would have likely glossed over the word (especially given the interviewer had conditioned the listens to not hear it), but I had just been informed yesterday that the real peak was in the winter. So you could say that I had come into the interview with “special” knowledge, and only because of that did I notice the error.

Notice that the facts were presented during the interview by the expert, but the tone and emphasis by the CBC host meant that most people were mislead.

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Goalie Legends

Today is Kirk McLean’s 55th birthday, so in celebration of Captain Kirk McLean’s birthday, here is a list of some of my favourite goalies of all time.

Carolina Hurricanes LEGEND Kirk McLean
St. Louis Blues LEGEND Ryan Miller
St. Louis Blues LEGEND Martin Brodeur
San Jose Sharks LEGEND Ed Belfour
Tampa Bay Lightning LEGEND Olaf Kölzig
Boston Bruins LEGEND Felix Potvin
Calgary Flames LEGEND Curtis Joseph
Los Angeles Kings LEGEND Grant Fuhr
Toronto Maple Leafs LEGEND Tom Barrasso
New Jersey Devils LEGEND John Vanbiesbrouck
Detroit RedWings LEGEND Bill Ranford
Los Angeles Kings LEGEND Billy Smith
New York Islanders LEGEND Chris Osgood
Edmonton Oilers LEGEND Jacques Plante
American Hockey League and Laval Rocket LEGEND Carey Price
Posted in Hockey, Sports | Leave a comment

The Amazing Durability of Patrick Marleau

As discussed recently, Marleau has played more games than anyone else in NHL history. Some players have played more seasons, and yet, he has beat them all for games played.

The following charts show exactly why this is. Hint: he has played in 98% of the games available to him.

This first graph summarizes players with long careers and high utilization rates.

These figures reflect the data from QuantHockey.com.

Here is a graph showing the top 7 players with the best utilization rates. Note that this chart has some slight differences from the QuantHockey graphs. This is because QuantHockey differs slightly on counting potential games when a player is traded mid-season, and also the 2019/20 season, which saw an unequal number of games played by different teams.

Besides Marleau, two other active players are in their 23rd NHL seasons, but have played more than 100 fewer games.

Joe Thornton has played in 92.5% of games. Note that neither Thornton nor Marleau played in 2005 (at the age of 25) because of the NHL lockout.

Zdeno Chara has played in 88.6% of games.

Another durable active player is Ovcheckin (although, the 35 year old is currently out with an injury).

Going back in time, let’s first compare against Gretzky. Gretzky had a very good utilization rate at 93.9% (although he did retire at 37). He currently sits 24th all time for games played.

Next, let’s compare against Mr. Hockey himself, Gordie Howe. 96.9% is one of the highest in NHL history.

Mark Messier has played in more games than anyone except Marleau and Howe, but that still only equates to 88.1% utilization.

91.2% for Jagr.

Ron Francis had a long and healthy career, playing in 94.4% of games.

Mark Recchi played in 93.5% of his games.

Chris Chelios sits in 8th all time for games played, and yet his utilization rate is just 79.2%.

Dave Andreychuk is in 9th for games played, and played in 89.3% of games available to him.

To round out the top 10 for games played is Scott Stevens who played in 93.2% of games.

Larry Murphy sits in 11th for games played, but has a very high utilization rate.

Ray Bourque played a lot of games.

Nichlas Lidstrom played in 97.3% of games.

Jarome Iginla had a high rate too.

Looking back into the past at players who played in earlier eras, some of the top players I could find were as follows.

Finally, let’s put in a goalie. Any modern goalie (like Ryan Miller who announced his retirement today) would typically be in the 50 to 60% range, but during the early years of the NHL goalies would play as many games as players. Georges Vezina played his entire career without missing a game, but he left the first game of the 1925/26 season and died before returning, so they count the rest of the season as missed games. This only gives him a utilization rate of 84.1%. His main rival, Clint Benedict played in 90% of his games.

The 2×2 comparison charts are from QuantHockey.

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The Truth About Vernon’s Poor Air Quality

One of the supposed mysteries about the Okanagan valley is that Vernon is often sitting under a poor air quality advisory while Kelowna’s air is just fine. This is particularly true during the spring before they sweep the gravel off the streets. For example, the current Spring.

In Facebook groups and other places where local issues are discussed I see comments year after year wondering why Vernon with 40,000 people can have such bad air quality while Kelowna with a population closer to 200,000 has significantly better air quality.

As the link above hints at, the difference has everything to do with the location of the sensor. The poor air quality readings in Vernon are obviously an embarrassment to the city since they have asked the province to move the sensor location. They would rather have 6 sensors spread around the city replacing the current location at the Okanagan Science Centre because this reduces the number of warnings the city would be obligated to issue each year.

City of Vernon

Certainly more sensors would be better, but to move the current location to a quieter part of the city reduces the quality of monitoring; the motivation for moving the sensor is to save face rather than knowing how bad the air quality actually is.

Traffic in Vernon bottlenecks through the downtown near the monitoring station. Highway 6 comes into the city, passing right by the sensor at the Science Centre, before meeting highway 97 just around the corner. This is the busiest intersection in Vernon.

Location of Vernon Air Quality Monitoring Station

By contrast, Kelowna’s air quality station is far to the south of the busiest parts of the city. The station is also a lot further off the street, so it does not pick up a lot of road dust from KLO road.

Kelowna Air Quality Station Location

Additionally, Kelowna’s sensor has a sizable chunk of farm land to the east, and it’s on a straight road, far from any intersections. By contrast, Vernon’s monitoring location is on the very busy highway 6 truck route, and large semis spit up tremendous amounts of dust. It is also near an intersection, so there’s the additional pollution from acceleration and idling.

Zoomed in View of Kelowna Air Quality Station

The City of Vernon wants to move the sensor to a quieter spot to make the city look better to the public, but I would think that the province should instead move the Kelowna sensor closer to the downtown to better capture the air that people have to breathe while living and working near the highway 97 corridor. Of course, this would get significant push-back from the city political figures, so it won’t happen.

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Patrick Marleau Breaks a 59 Year Old NHL Record!

In September 1979 a 51 year old Gordie Howe was warming up at training camp to play an unthinkable 26th year in the NHL. At the same time in his native Saskatchwan, a baby was born who would break his record for games played some 41 years later.

Tonight in Los Vegas, San Jose’s Patrick Marleau stepped onto the ice for his 1,768th NHL game, passing Mr. Hockey himself for the most regular season games in NHL history!

One could argue that he still needs to play another season to pass Mark Messier’s regular season plus playoffs, and play many more seasons to catch Gordie Howe’s regular season total if we count the 6 years he played in the rival WHA (World Hockey Association). The only other player who has played as many professional games is Jaromir Jagr who is still playing in Europe.

We could say all that, but the NHL is the most demanding and competitive league in the world, and counting regular season games is how longevity at the highest level has been counted historically, so Marleau is the most experienced player in NHL history, a truly amazing feat!

Since the NHL began in 1917/18 there have been 11 different “most games played” champions. Of course, the NHL started out as a 22 game season and has slowly worked up to the current 82 game season, so the leader kept changing every few years. The fact that Howe’s record stood so long given that he started out playing in a 60 game season speaks to his longevity as a player.

Practically speaking, the league really started in 1910 because there was no real difference between the NHA (National Hockey Association) and the NHL besides the name change. The NHL was formed with all the same players as the NHA, but was done so just to get rid of the Toronto owner that all the other owners didn’t like. Including the NHA data adds a few more leaders.

Harry Smith won the “most games played” in the inaugural 1910 NHA season because he was traded halfway through, so managed to play 13 games during the year, one more than the scheduled number of games.

The following season was bumped up to 16 games as Georges Vezina entered the league. He would play every single minute of every game for the Montreal Canadiens for over 15 years, and still only end up playing 328 games. During his last full season in 1924/25, the league went to 30 games for the first time.

His main rival for most of his career, Clint Benedict, didn’t play as many seasons, but still played more games despite missing games from serious injuries, and eventually ending his career pre-maturely from a puck to the face.

Dit Clapper (I have to say, that’s one of my favourite hockey player names of all time) did the unthinkable before Howe, playing 20 seasons in the NHL. His record stood for 13 years until Maurice “The Rocket” Richard passed Dit Clapper, and of course, with fewer seasons because he had the advantage of starting out with a 50 game schedule, and quickly moving to 60 and then 70 game seasons.

Gordie Howe started out playing 60 game seasons, then 70 games, and eventually 76 games. It was only during his last season in 1979/80 when he finally played in an 80 game season. And yet, no one has been able to beat him until now.

Marleau’s record is guaranteed to stand for at least two years since Joe Thornton is more than a full season’s worth of games behind.

Amazingly enough, Patrick Marleau has done what no other player in the post-70 game schedule league has been able to do, and he did it while missing the entire 2004/05 season because of the NHL lockout, almost half a season in 2012/13 from another contract dispute, and finally two reduced seasons from Covid-19.

Congrats to Pat Marleau!

Posted in Hockey, Sports | 1 Comment

Will The Great Eight Catch The Great One?

Alex “The Great Eight” Ovechkin is one of the best goal scorers in NHL history, and continues to put up impressive numbers in his mid 30s. In fact, for the first time in his career, just last year at age 34, he scored more goals than every other 34 year had in NHL history.

In terms of cumulative goals scored, only Wayne Gretzky scored more goals by age 35, so most of the others above him on the all time list are going to be easy to catch, barring serious injury.

Wayne Gretzky will be tough to beat, and Covid is not helping. The 2021 season has been shorted by Covid, and Ovechkin was forced to miss an additional two weeks of hockey due to possible Covid exposure.

Gretzky peaked in his early 20s, and had the fortune of playing on an offensive powerhouse during the high scoring 1980s, so it’s safe to say that Ovechkin is a better goal scoring talent even if he never catches him.

Perhaps the only players in NHL history who were better than Ovechkin at putting the puck in net have already been passed. Mario Lemieux was sidelined with cancer right as he was hitting peak stride and later suffered from back injuries. Meanwhile, Mike Bossy retired at age 30 from back injuries. Both were ahead of Alex Ovechkin when their health failed.

No one has been as consistent for so long in the NHL. Ovechkin has won the Rocket Richard Trophy as the player scoring the most goals during the regular season 9 different times, including 7 of the last 8 years. The only player who is comparable is Bobby Hull who scored the most goals 7 times until ditching the NHL for the rival WHA at the age of 34. Hull continued to dominate in the goal scoring department in the WHA until injuries started slowing him down at 37, so perhaps he could have eked out another couple of more titles in the NHL had he stayed. Still, when he left he was the age Ovechkin is now, and had only 7 titles against Ovechkin’s 9.

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Is Della Falls the Tallest Waterfall in Canada?

First, lets address the core of the issue. Della Falls stands 1,443 feet tall per the Atlas of Canada. Nearly all of the information we have seen which perpetuates the idea that Della Falls is Canada’s tallest cite the Atlas of Canada as the definitive source. Topographic data from multiple sources – including the Atlas of Canada – has thus far backed up the claimed height of 1,443 feet, so we have little reason to think the height of the falls is anything but (relatively) accurate. What this means then is that, for this claim to be true, there should be no other waterfall in Canada which is taller than Della Falls. The problem, however, is that there are. Lots. There are 22 waterfalls inventoried throughout Canada which stand at least 1,444 feet tall.

The first argument usually put up against debunking this myth is that Della Falls is a free-leaping waterfall and none of the other waterfalls which are taller than Della Falls are truly free-leaping, and hence shouldn’t count. The biggest problem with this counter-argument is that Della Falls itself is not a free leaping waterfall. In fact, Della Falls could be considered to be a waterfall of three distinct leaps. It isn’t so much a traditional Tiered type waterfall in that there are not distinct pauses in between each of the three vertical portions of the falls, but there are “pauses” of sorts where the creek cascades steeply down bouldery substrate instead of over bedrock – either way, it certainly isn’t free falling. This issue aside, the only truly free-leaping part of the falls is the uppermost 400 feet (approximately) of the drop, below there the creek retains some contact with the bedrock for the remaining descent.

della-falls-topo

Della-Falls

Point 1 marks the very top of the falls, at (approximate) elevation of 1,040m. Point 2 marks the bottom of the initial and most vertical drop of the falls. This point is approximately 460 feet below and 190 feet to the east of the top of the falls. Point 3 marks the top of the second steep part of the falls, where the stream has split into two main channels. Between points 2 and 3, the stream loses another 200 feet in elevation but flows laterally for 200 feet. From Point 3 to Point 4, which represents the bottom of the second steep part of the falls, the stream loses about 530 feet in elevation while flowing laterally for about 460 feet. From Point 4 to Point 5 the stream flows about 230 feet laterally while losing only about 30 feet in elevation. From Point 5 in the photo to Point 5 on the map, the final drop of 200 vertical feet in 130 lateral feet takes place. So, once again it looks like Della Falls does indeed fall 1,443 feet, but it does it in a run of over 1,200 feet – an average pitch of about 50 degrees, which can hardly be considered vertical.

Clearly Della isn’t a vertical waterfall and can’t be considered Canada’s tallest based on that criteria. So, for the sake of argument lets address the claim that Della Falls is Canada’s tallest waterfall based on the idea that it is a single non-vertical waterfall of 1,443 feet in height. What we now have to figure out is whether any of these 22 other waterfalls which we already know to be taller than Della Falls based on total height are in fact taller in one non-vertical drop. Many of them are, in fact, multi-step non-vertical waterfalls which don’t meet the criteria right away. Bedard Falls, Bush Mountain Falls and Storey Peak Falls, for example, all flume down the side of their respective mountains – in some places vertically, but mostly in multiple slides or cascades. Others, such as Madden Falls and Michael Falls may drop vertically, but they do so over a series of steps which can’t be considered to be a single drop in even the most liberal of sense.

But whittling down the list, we find three candidates which do appear to legitimately oust Della Falls based on any claim made; Kingcome Valley Falls, Bishop Falls and Cerberus Falls. The unofficially named Kingcome Valley Falls, deep within the coast mountains, drops some 1,700 feet off a nearly sheer bluff. The drainage area is tiny and though it may flow for most of the year, it almost certainly runs dry at some point in the season and even at its best isn’t a waterfall of significant volume. Certainly a taller waterfall, but for some perhaps not considered “significant” enough to be thought of as a legitimate waterfall.

Bishop Falls, found in the Taku River valley about 75km northeast of Juneau, Alaska, is a lofty fall of moderate to high volume (at least during the warmer months). To the best of our knowledge, it hasn’t been measured by any group. The most conservative estimates place it to be around 1,450 feet in height, which puts it right around the size of Della Falls. However, its true height may be closer to 1,600 feet when all is said and done. Proving this, however, will necessitates on-site surveying. Also note that while Bishop Falls is technically classified as a single-drop waterfall, it does have a “step” of sorts about a third of the way down, but this step is of significantly smaller size than those that are present in Della Falls itself, so it should not be looked at as a disqualifier.

icefallbrook_08012010

Cerberus Falls is found along Icefall Brook at the head of Icefall Canyon in the heart of the Canadian Rockies about 70km north of Golden, British Columbia. We don’t have to second guess this one, because members of the World Waterfall Database surveyed and measured Cerberus Falls with both a laser rangefinder and GPS positioning in August of 2010. They found the falls to stand 1,558 feet tall, possibly more depending on how a secondary stream parallel to the main falls proves to be influence by the source glacier. Not only is this waterfall a full 100 feet taller than Della Falls, but it’s a nearly vertical, single drop of 1,558 feet.

So, in summary, yes Della Falls is as tall as it is claimed to be, but it is not a vertical waterfall so it cannot be considered to be the tallest vertical waterfall in Canada, and if Della Falls is to be considered a single-drop waterfall – which is debatable in itself – it cannot be considered the tallest single-drop waterfall because there are other single-drop waterfalls which are taller. So, ultimately, Della Falls cannot be considered the tallest waterfall in Canada by any metric.

So why then has Della Falls been considered to be the tallest waterfall in Canada for so long? The answer is simply publicity. Della Falls was discovered in 1899 and was romanticized quickly by the tales of early visitors. Strathcona Provincial Park, the first in British Columbia, was established shortly after in 1911 and the notoriety of the falls surely added to the reasons for protecting the area. But on top of that is the fact that the falls lay on crown (government) land, and as a result the government has no doubt publicized information about the falls countless times. This is significant because when quantifiable information – such as the height of mountains or waterfalls – is compiled, government entities are generally viewed as a reliable source. So, if Della Falls was at one time thought to be the tallest waterfall in Canada according to the Canadian government, chances are that information simply propagated outwards from there without anyone thinking to fact check it because its ultimate source was thought to be accurate. What’s funny is that any ordinary person knows just how inefficient and inaccurate any governing body can be. Just goes to show that questions should always be asked, no matter the source of information.

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2021 Property Tax Increases Across British Columbia

Posted in BC Politics, Consumer Issues, Economics | Leave a comment

What is the largest Pacific river in North America?

Yukon River delta as seen by satellite

For some reason, whenever the discussion comes up about the largest rivers, everyone talks about length as if that’s the most important metric. In my view, it’s the least interesting, and only shows which river basin is long and skinny. The Nile is famous for being long and skinny, but it’s volume and drainage basin area is a small drop in the bucket compared to the Amazon.

The other thing about length is that it’s somewhat subjective. Are we just following the river that bears the name or are we following up the longest tributary? If we follow just the name, the Nile is longer than the Amazon, but if we trace the tributary that will give the longest distance, the Amazon is longer.

But enough about that age old comparison, let’s juxtapose the largest North American rivers flowing into the Pacific ocean. For this exercise, I did not include the tributaries. If I had, then some of the largest ones of the Yukon, Fraser, and Columbia would be on all three graphs.

The location is the jurisdiction at the mouth (although the volume of the Colorado River is measured in Topock, AZ because that’s the location of maximum volume). 18 rivers were included in the following three graphs because the same 18 make the cut on each chart (if 16 rivers were included instead, for example, then one of the “top 16” for volume would be off the “top 16” list for length).

Let’s start with length.

This one surprised me. I did not realize that the Yukon was that much longer than any of the other rivers, nor did I expect that the Colorado was longer than the Columbia.

Next, let’s compare the rivers by drainage basin size.

Once again the Yukon is far ahead of the others. Perhaps most surprising to me is that the Fraser is less than half that of the Colorado, and under 1/3 the size of the Yukon and Columbia.

Finally, let’s do a volume comparison.

Because of the desert conditions in the Colorado River basin (along with irrigation and other water uses), the river drops down to 11th spot. Since the Columbia (along with the Fraser) drains the world’s only temperate interior rain forest, it moves up to first spot.

So what’s the largest Pacific river in North America?

Well, that depends on how you define “largest,” but if we’re talking about the amount of water flowing into the ocean, it’s the Columbia.

Similar to length, volume is also hard to measure because the measuring point for the mouth is often 100s of kilometers inland to avoid the effects of tidal water getting in the way. For example, the Fraser is measured at Hope, which is over 100km inland.

A river’s drainage basin size is my favourite way of comparing sizes, so I’m inclined to name the Yukon as the largest Pacific river in North America.

Posted in Geography, Rivers | Leave a comment